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For a Positive Holiday Season, Ditch This One Word

Beat back “bad” to keep self-judgment off your holiday to-do list.

Enjoying dessert at Christmas

Not surprisingly given that I am a professional writer, I love words. The power of a single word to paint a picture, describe a scene or name a feeling is endlessly thrilling to me. 

There’s one word, though, that I hear all too much during the holiday season: “bad.” I’m guilty of using it myself. If a batch of cookies doesn’t come out as I hoped, they’re suddenly “bad.” When I tuck into a luscious dessert at a holiday celebration, I’m likely to comment on how deliciously “bad” it is calorie-wise. And when I’ve let too much time pass since I last connected with a friend, I apologize for being “a bad friend.” Even gift-wrapping is something I recently declared myself “bad” at.

On the one hand, “bad” is kind of like “nice,” a word that means either everything or nothing depending on its context. But on the other hand, “bad” is almost always a form of negative self-talk. It’s the chief ingredient in the self-judgment we can struggle with during the season when we tend to evaluate our relationships, our gift-giving ability, our culinary skills and—with New Year’s resolutions right around the corner—our lives in general.

Negative self-talk stops us in our tracks, limiting our ability to think more flexibly and freely about where we are, where we want to go and how to get there. What if we invested the energy and thought we put into declaring ourselves, our choices or our habits “bad” in a more productive, positive direction? What if that dessert is “such a delicious treat?” What if I “am too creative for my own good” when it comes to gift wrapping? What if the cookies “will be better next time?”

Or—what if I’m just plain disappointed in the batch of cookies, the lost time with friends or my recent lack of a consistent exercise routine? That’s OK too—and using the power of honest, descriptive words, I can get specific about the stressors and challenges I’m working through, to my credit.

We tell kids, “use your words” to describe their feelings. Let’s model that value by stepping back from “bad” and instead, saying what we really mean this holiday season.

Wouldn’t that be…”nice?”

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